Westminster church opens new doors

After years of waiting, congregation holds first service in building

January 21, 2002|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

For 17 years, a sign posted in a barren field along Littlestown Pike promised the site was the future home of Westminster Church of Christ. The sign has long since faded, but the promise came true yesterday when the small congregation held its first service in its new home.

"We got this land in 1985 and considered it a blessing," said Gary D. Pearson, evangelist to the 147-member congregation. "We have waited a long time, and we can finally cross `future' off that old sign out there."

It took years of passing the collection plate while meeting in a building that resembled a house more than a church before the congregation raised enough money to start construction in August. Within five months, the $600,000 brick-and-siding structure was ready.

The congregation began worshipping in an elementary school nearly 20 years ago and moved to a small building on Madison Street in Westminster. With the new building, it has doubled its space and increased its mortgage sixfold.

Polly Saywell, 79, drives from Timonium to Westminster every week to attend services with a congregation she considers her family.

She formerly worshipped with a Church of Christ congregation that met at the Towson YMCA building. She took a drive to Westminster one Sunday and found a new congregation.

Because of the family atmosphere, she said, she felt at home in the old building and was eager for the service yesterday.

"This will be the first time in a lot of years that I have gone to a brand-new church," she said.

"I am thrilled with the new church and happy to drive out there through a beautiful countryside that gets me in the mood for prayer. I will go to this church as long as I can drive. It is like a family to me."

The church has space for six classrooms, a nursery, a library and Pearson's office, which overlooks rolling hills - a view he expects to be inspiring. Plans call for a fellowship hall to be built well in the future, he said.

Double leaded-glass doors lead to a spacious foyer and the sanctuary, which can seat 175.

For the first time in its history, the church has a baptistery. The Churches of Christ, which number about 2.5 million members nationwide, practice spontaneous baptism by immersion.

Spontaneity was difficult when the nearest baptistery was in Hanover, Pa., Pearson said.

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